A secret film, made by a prison guard, shows new evidence of vote-rigging in last month’s presidential election in Zimbabwe.
Shepherd Yuda, who has now fled Zimbabwe, is the guard who filmed the vote-rigging at his jail, in a production for Guardian Films.
Mr Yuda, as well as other prison officers, were forced by superior officers to vote for president Robert Mugabe.
A postal ballot has been organised by the officers, who stood over them as they cast votes.
After his uncle, an opposition activist, was murdered two months ago, Mr Yuda decided to speak out, even though he knew that after that he and his family would have to leave Zimbabwe.
“This election: I have never seen that type of violence”, he says in the film.
“The impact has left a lot of orphans; it has left a lot of people displaced. You cannot expect that from your government.”
Secretly, Mr Yuda filmed a war veteran, Superintendent Shambira, watching as prison officers voted.
Supt Shambira ensured they marked their ballots for Robert Mugabe, and not Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition candidate.
There was no secrecy as each vote has then been logged an identification number by Supt Shambira.
And all those voting knew Supt Shambira had the power to condemn them as MDC supporters. Mr Yuda says he had no choice but to vote for Robert Mugabe. He also spoke to voters on the streets of Harare. One voter told him : “They’re standing right in front of you when you cast your vote. They watch.”
Then the voter added : “Shambira definitely sees you vote – there’s no way of hiding it. I was thinking I could vote when he wasn’t looking, but he was watching like a hawk.”
Tendai Biti is among the prisoners. He is a prominent opposition MP and human-rights lawyer. Mr Yuda filmed him having his leg-irons removed for a court hearing.
Mr Biti, is still awaiting trial on treason charges, but was released on bail, though he could still face execution.
‘Very, very sad’
“You know, I was so touched : for a man of his status to be reduced to such levels, to be put in a criminal institution”, Mr Yuda says in the film. “It’s very, very sad.”
And as tension was increasing, conversations between prison guards in the run-up to the 27 June run-off election have also been captured by Mr Yuda.
“In my area, there’s a lot of tension”, one guard tells him. “Zanu-PF [ruling party] thugs came to my house as soon as I left for work today. They abducted my wife. They took her to the base.”
These “bases” are springing up in private houses all over Harare. Though they previously were a feature of rural Zimbabwe, they now have reached the capital.
Ordinary people are abducted and compelled to attend Zanu-PF re-education rallies.
“I am forced to go and guard these bases all through the night, after my shift here”, another prison officer says.
“They cordon off the whole street : it becomes a no-go area. These people are killers, the thugs that Zanu-PF are using.”
‘Mbeki has betrayed us’
The rest of the world should do more to help Zimbabwe, said another guard.
“It’s in the hands of the international community now”, he says.
“[South African President] Thabo Mbeki has betrayed us. He didn’t want to come down hard on Mugabe. Instead, he kept going on and on about pan-Africanism.”
Mr Yuda filmed a woman, on election day itself, who is so fearful that she has pretended to have voted. Hoping to simulate the ink used to identify those having already casted their ballots, she colored her little fingers with a pink marker.
The day after Robert Mugabe’s election, Shepherd Yuda and his family began packing, preparing to leave Zimbabwe, as their lives would have been in danger if the had stayed.
And now, they can only begin to think about returning once Mr Mugabe has gone.